Debunking Common Ergonomic Myths

Written by: Katie Lonsdale, AE, Ergonomic Consultant

When a product is marketed as “ergonomic” it must be good for you, right? Well the truth is this term can be used very loosely, and we must be cautious and understand the true benefit before purchasing equipment. At Options, we are continually evaluating new technology so that we can effectively and efficiently support our clients. As professionals, we want to debunk some common ergonomic myths, to help you better understand what is value-added and what is a facade.

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1. Ergonomic chairs with a wide range of adjustability will relieve your discomfort.

While we encourage purchasing chairs with adjustability, we often find these chairs are purchased and implemented into a workstation without the user understanding how to adjust it properly. In such cases, these chairs provide no added benefit over a simple basic chair. Educating the worker on how to adjust their chair is just as important as providing them with an adjustable chair. If people don’t know how to use something, they won’t!

2. Wrist rests will relieve all your wrist discomfort.

This is a common belief and we see these implemented in many workstations. However, the truth is that wrist rests can actually make the discomfort worse. Wrist rests encourage individuals to anchor their wrists resulting in repetitive use of non-neutral postures, which can promote injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Wrist rests can also increase the distance between the worker and their keyboard, ultimately increasing their horizontal reach.

3. Alternative mice are more beneficial than the standard mouse.

At Options, we have trialed a variety of alternative mice and have applied insight into what styles of mice work best in specific situations. Not every alternative mouse will work for every individual and implementation must be considered on a case by case basis. We have observed situations where implementation of an alternative mouse may require a significant learning curve, potentially putting other body parts at risk for repetitive strain injuries. We are not saying that the standard mouse is the answer every time, however before implementing an alternative mouse you should consider the workstation set up, individual needs, and their reported discomfort.

4. A power tool is sometimes marketed as being “ergonomic” if it has low vibration values.

We will take a step away from the office environment and into the manufacturing world, where power tools often have a large presence. While vibration is an extremely important factor to consider when choosing the right power tool, there are also other factors, such as style of tool, that must be considered. For example, a pistol grip gun works well if the work area is parallel to the worker. However, if the work area is perpendicular to a worker (i.e. working in the engine compartment of a vehicle), a pistol grip gun can introduce non-neutral wrist postures. The key for purchasing the right tool is to select a tool based on the specific job.

Selecting the proper equipment for the job is not necessarily easy. With the term “ergonomic” used so frequently, it is easy to believe many of these products will solve all your problems, until it is too late. The moral of the story is don’t believe everything you see on TV. Don’t trust the media, trust us!

Contact us if you would like our assistance and expertise on purchasing the right equipment for your workplace.

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